Citing evidence that a Boston official discriminated against a Christian camp in a city flag-flying program, Liberty Counsel is asking a federal court for an immediate judgment in favor of the camp in a lawsuit.
Camp Constitution sued after Gregory T. Rooney, commissioner of the Boston Property Management Department, rejected its request to fly a Christian over city hall through the program.
WND reported in U.S. District Judge Denise Casper ruled in May that the case must move forward when then city asked for an immediate judgment based on the known facts of the case.
The city’s flag-flying program routinely has made available to anyone who wants to participate. The judge noted the “exclusion” of the Christian flag and the fact that the city had no policy for non-secular flags.
Now, Liberty Counsel, on behalf of the camp, is arguing that a summary of undisputed facts in the case is sufficient for a ruling that the city discriminated illegally.
“The city has allowed other civic and cultural organizations the freedom to raise their flags on the city hall flagpoles to commemorate whatever events are important to the organizations more than 300 times since 2005, and nearly 40 times just in the year preceding Camp Constitution’s request,” Liberty Counsel explained.
“The city’s application policy refers to the flagpoles as a ‘public forum’ open to ‘all applicants.’ City officials have never denied the ‘messages’ communicated by Boston Pride and the pink and blue ‘transgender’ flag, and even the flags of Communist China and Cuba, but will not allow the civic and historical Christian message of Camp Constitution,” the group said.
Camp Constitution asked the city in 2017, and again in 2018, for permission to raise its flag in the city program.
Liberty Counsel cited the First and Fourteenth Amendments in support of its request for a summary judgment.
“The city’s uniform application policies explicitly designate the city hall flag poles as one of ‘the city of Boston’s public forums’ for which the city ‘seeks to accommodate all applicants,'” Liberty Counsel’s brief notes.
“The city’s actual practice is consistent with its ‘public forums’ for ‘all applicants’ policy because ‘for the most part, the city will allow any event’ to take place on city hall plaza,” it explains.
Before the Camp Constitution request was submitted, Rooney “never requested to review a flag prior to approval, never requested any changes to a flag prior to approval, and never denied a flag raising application prior to Camp Constitution.”
“The city approved 284 flag raising events during the relevant period. In the year immediately preceding Camp Constitutions application the city approved 39 flag raisings, averaging more than three per month.”
However, Rooney rejected the “Christian flag,” even though it was a simple red cross on a blue field on a white background.
In fact, he previously allowed in the program the “Bunker Hill” flag, which has a red cross on a white field on a blue background.
“Rooney did not consider the Bunker Hill flag a ‘religious’ flag, despite its depiction of a red cross, because ‘it’s to commemorate the Battle of Bunker Hill.’ Thus, if the Bunker Hill flag had been presented to Rooney as ‘the Christian flag or a Christian flag,’ then Rooney ‘would … have had the same concerns that [he] had about Camp Constitution’s flag.'”
The filing contends, “Camp Constitution is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on its claim that the city restricted Camp Constitution’s speech in the city’s designated public forum at the city hall flag poles in violation of the First Amendment.”
The brief said the city’s rejection of the Camp Constitution flag exhibited “hostile and discriminatory exclusion” of the camp’s religious beliefs.
The court filings have noted that the city already has allowed flags from Brazil, Ethiopia, Portugal, Puerto Rico, the People’s Republic of China and Cuba. Flags also have been flown commemorating Juneteenth and LGBT and transgender rights.
The city’s guidelines allow the city to deny a request if an event includes illegal or dangerous activities, but there has been no such allegation against Camp Constitution.
The city has admitted in court it makes decisions based on whether its officials like the “message.”